Top 7 TV Series Finales

Every show must come to an end (besides “The Simpsons”).

When talking about series finales, inevitably (older) people bring up “Newhart,” “MASH” or something else that was on 30 years ago. And of course the series finale is a difficult beast to tame.

Trying to make everyone happy and stay true to the show is a lot to ask. Remember all the gut-busting laughter from the “Friends” last hoorah? Neither do I.

But over the past 15 years we’ve gotten some pretty good send-offs. Here are the Top 7 series finales of the past 15 years.

7. Seinfeld (nine seasons)
Recap: Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer witness, laugh at and videotape a crime of an overweight man being robbed. They are charged with a Good Samaritan law for not helping. The trial brings back the soup nazi, Mr. Bookman, and Babu Bhatt to recap why this foursome is so awful. The jury finds them guilty and the gang is sentenced to a year in jail … for doing nothing (exactly what the show was about).

Reason: If it wasn’t for all the reruns in syndication, people would have been thrilled to see Marla the virgin, and all the others return for one last episode. George reveals he cheated during “the contest,” and Jerry ends the show with the same conversation he had with George during the first episode. Admittedly, the episode works better on paper.

6. 90210 (10 seasons)
Recap: David and Donna finally get married. Andrea and Valerie come back for Donna’s bachelorette party. Brandon sends a videotaped message. Nat walks Donna down the isle. When Dylan (best man) and Kelly (maid of honor) read selections of poetry during the ceremony, Kelly ‘s boyfriend Matt can’t handle it. He leaves and that opens the door for Dylan and Kelly to be together once again.

Reason: Cheesy? Absolutely. But this show survived on melodrama for a decade. And it was nice to see things end up well for Kelly. After all, she had a drug habit, was raped as a teen, in a cult, had a miscarriage, memory loss, involved in a drive-by and killed a second rapist. Enough said.

5. Sex and the City (six seasons)
Recap: Carrie is stuck is Paris, realizing that Petrovsky is self-obsessed. Back in the states, Big brings the women together and pleads for another chance with Carrie. They send him off to London, where he flips out when Carrie explains Petrovsky accidentally slapped her. Eventually, Big pours his heart out to Carrie on the streets of Paris, and they return to New York together.

Reason: Ideally, the whole show would have been in New York which has been like another cast member to “Sex and the City.” But the audience gets what they are looking for when Big (John) comes to the “rescue.” If you can get past the idea that all four women ended up with men (when the show was all about the single woman) then this show delivers.

4. Sports Night (two seasons)
Recap: The ESPN-like show looks like it will be canceled. Everyone is panicked and trying to figure out what to do next. Dana runs into a mystery man who seems to know everything about her business. He says “Where are we going?” to Dana for inspiration. Jeremy translates “Quo Vadimus” (the company name that bought them), which means “where are we going?” The mystery man is her new boss, and he is keeping the show.

Reason: The finale is bitter sweet because in TV-world, the sports show was saved from being canceled. In the real world, ABC didn’t bring “Sports Night” back for a third year. The show was created by Aaron Sorkin, starring Felicity Huffman as Dana and Peter Krause as Casey.

3. The Office (BBC) (two and a half seasons)
Recap: Gareth is now in charge of Wernham Hogg, and David Brent is a failed celebrity/sales rep. Dawn is returning with her boyfriend Lee to the office Christmas party, and Tim hopes for another chance with her. After what looks like another heartbreaking end, Dawn finally releases that it is Tim she should be with.

Reason: Even though it was considered a “special,” I am calling it the true finale. It is the perfect blend of staying true to its comic roots and nailing the romantic drama in the end. Tim and Dawn captured the ordinary workplace romance perfectly. It’s amazing that NBC’s “The Office” is able to match the chemistry with Jim and Pam.

2. Wonder Years (six seasons)
Recap: Kevin and Winnie hitchhike home after losing their jobs. The two argue, then seek shelter when a thunderstorm hits. In a barn they talk about how much has changed in their relationship. Kevin wants to hold on. They kiss. At the end, the narrator says Paul studies law at Harvard. Jack passes away in just two years. And Kevin and Winnie write each other for eight years as she studies art in Europe. When she returns, Kevin is married with a child.

Reason: The show appealed to the older generation, reliving their past, and the younger who were going through the same child pains as Kevin, Paul and Winnie. Daniel Stern’s uncredited narration can still be recognized at the drop of a hat.

1. Six Feet Under (five seasons)
Recap: The family is still grieving from the unexpected death of Nate Fisher. Brenda’s premature baby survives, Frederico opens his own funeral parlor and Claire gets a photography job in New York. David finally deals with his anxiety attacks and with Keith’s blessing they take over the family home and continue to run the funeral parlor. At the last minute, Claire loses her job, but still finds the courage to head east.

Reason: It is not what happens to the characters, it is how the actors are able to portray this odd, mixed-up family with more depth and reality than any other drama. Sia’s “Breathe Me” accompanies a look into the future deaths of all the cast members, which embraces the joy and sadness the show was so good at.

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1 Comment

  1. I agree, this is a better list than EW’s if only for Sports Night and Six Feet Under

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